Future Ready Campuses

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Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury

For a future-ready campus, wifi linked with strong broadband connectivity available for all to use for multiple purposes 24×7 is a basic hygiene factor now. Another latest hygiene factor is that campuses should have compulsory sanitisation and facilities for hand-face wash. Also, these should ensure entry with a mask on. Further, campuses must ensure that big number of students are not huddled in small spaces. However, beyond these, a smart campus needs to have a mega blended approach – from course creation to delivery, from learners’ engagement to evaluation, from practical to internship, et al, writes Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury, Pro Vice-Chancellor (PR & Media), Adamas University, Kolkata and Former Dean, Symbiosis and Amity Universities.

Mentors & Learners of Smart Campuses

The old school teachers were sages on the stage, they spoke the last word on syllabus and evaluation, introduced a topic in class, and interpreted it. The sole tasks of the teachers were classroom teaching and assessing answer scripts. They used the ‘Chalk and Talk’ approach and focused on a structured syllabus.

The mentors of smart campuses are friends, guides, motivators, and do not speak the last word. They create proprietary learning resources of their own, then aggregate learning resources and share, mentoring inside and beyond the classroom. They are adept at multiple evaluation systems. They begin from a structured syllabus and move on to an organic one

The students, in recent past, studied in the classrooms and from teachers, books and at times searched the internet. They studied majorly for exams, marks, grades, degrees, studied in a competitive environment and were limited to a given structured syllabus. Whereas, the learners of the smart campuses study in class, from mentors, peers, study outside class, from the internet, from experiences, study for life and application, and they self-study, learning to learn, and study in a collaborative environment. They start with a structured syllabus but organic learning things they love and want to pursue later becomes their goal.

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The smart campus mentors have four tasks

1.Creating learning resources & tools

With regards to his/her own proprietary learning resources, a mentor starts by setting learning objectives and outcomes at the outset, then moves to mentor’s self videos/ video talks on the subject-matter, his/her podcast/audio talks on the subject-matter, case-studies, power-point presentations, mentor’s written chapters/books/articles and developing infographics designed by the mentor.

Some mentors develop their part or full own online courses, including audio, video, text, slides, and assignments for the learners. Mentors also develop short and diverse micro-learning content.

Apart from these resources developed personally by the mentors, they also aggregate the relevant following resources from various sources for their learners: YouTube/Vimeo video (films) and audio (podcast) links, URLs of sites/ analyses/ cases, PDFs of chapters/ cases, available slide-share presentations, text and reference books, journal articles/ chapters, charts, infographics, relevant humour content, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) like Swayam. They also encourage the learners to complete a few paid online courses like those on Coursera or Upgrad, procure 3D, augmented reality and simulations content and aggregated diverse micro-learning content.

While all of the above may not be needed for every topic or for every batch, many of these in varying proportions must be kept ready to fulfil when required.

For the self-learning of the learners, the campus should have advanced digital library along with the traditional library. The focus has to be on the digital library. The US-based EBSCO, McGraw Hill Education and DELNET (Developing Library Network) with a repository of over 2.5 lakh e-resources, e-books, e-journals, etc, are great sources. So is Bangalore-based KopyKitab that has a digital collection of eight million ebooks and branded digital content. Then there are ebooks of National Digital Library through INFLIBNET, the South Asian Archive and the World ebook library. Together these will make a smart campus digital library infrastructure.

 2.Delivery of learning resources

With regards to the delivery of learning, the mentors must start by arranging all content in increasing order of difficulty level, creating interest level through the use of content to read, listen and watch. These must be delivered using Learning Management System (software for creating, distributing and managing educational content) to deliver content to learners. This will lead to the Flipped classroom approach for digital asynchronous learning of these learning resources, a week in advance, by the learners themselves. And then the mentors are to discuss the theme in the class with seamless integration with an online VC platform for digital synchronous sessions: Zoom, MS Teams, Webex, Google Meet, etc.

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The mentors use WhatsApp groups and e-groups to amplify content-share, and also Interactive Learning Technology, organising content for the organic learning of the active learners of each course or topic. Interactive Learning Technology, like Impartus, which offers interactive smart classes is also a good choice. Further, the mentors need to keep sharing engaging content to keep learners interested throughout their organic learning.

3.Learners’ engagement

The learners shall be engaged productively and interestingly using ILT and Volunteer Training Workflows for seamless experiences, integrating Social Networking in Learning Engagement Ecosystem (like Facebook or Instagram used in learning), using Google Forms Opinion Surveys, Poll and Quiz during and beyond synchronous sessions, debates and discussions in sessions (digital or physical). The mentors must enhance the practical engagement of learners through the use of virtual lab/studio experiences (online, synchronous, asynchronous) and then Actual Lab/Studio experiences (seamlessly integrated into the virtual). They must encourage field visits and report presentations, apart from thematic presentations by the learners.

Engagement of learners can be enhanced through video-conferencing tools (Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Meet), instant messaging tools (WhatsApp, Telegram), breakout sessions within platforms like Zoom, along with educational apps (Google Classroom) and platforms such as Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting and MS Teams.

Learners’ learning experience can be enhanced by applying artificial intelligence, machine learning, tracking cognitive behaviour and social data, adequately using the combined power of audio, video, graphics, and humour and formulating reports and recommendations for a better learning experience based on experience and evidence. Alongside, they must give components for organic learning.

There can be personalising the learning experience by using smartbooks by various publishers, like Tata McGraw Hill and Pearson. Further, AI bots can be used to monitor learners’ academic performance, proctor exams, suggest electives/specialisations, even track attendance. The university may also use analytics and AI/ML and augmented reality/virtual reality to help track learners’ engagement with the study materials given. Finally, a smart campus can engage gamification of learning, VR and AR applications to enhance outcome and ease of learning.

4.Learners’ evaluation

A smart campus will have a diverse blended evaluation system, assessing learning progress both during the course (formative) and after the course (summative). There shall be diagnostic quizzes, flexible online exams (open book: applied/analytical) with non-Google-able innovative questioning, along with proctored online exams, apart from field-based assignment and reports, research-based presentations, case-study presentations and syllabus and project-based presentations.

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The evaluation must include several modes like online/offline, internships/live projects, physical lab/studio-based assessment, other than written examinations, interview-based assessment, along time-bound task-based response assessment. Also, assessing performance in the dissertation through the viva voce test is another tool for evaluation. Diversity in evaluation will ensure unbiased assessment and will encourage diversity in learning.

Needless to say, technology-assisted sports, games, cultural activities, social outreach initiatives, etc. shall also be integral parts of a smart campus, which must have transparency in work, delegation, evaluation and reporting, all at the click of a button.

To truly make such a campus finally deliver for the learners, there must not be any form of a digital divide among the learners.

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